Mobile phones are an acknowledged source of annoyance in public places. Technology under development at Microsoft Research would make them more polite. Grab the ringing phone and a touch sensor signals the phone to soften its ring while you are bringing it close to your ear. If you peek at the caller ID display before deciding whether to take the call, the phone registers the action with a tilt sensor and mutes the ring. An infrared sensor detects the phone’s proximity to the user. The combined information from the sensors tells the phone when it is being moved up to the ear, which allows the person to answer an incoming call without having to hit the “talk” button. Phones endowed with the sensors (photo) could come to market in about three years, say Microsoft researchers Kenneth Hinckley and Eric Horvitz.